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Annual Report Names Cheerleading as Most Dangerous Sport for Female Athletes

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 17-Sep-2008

Over the last 25 years, a single sport has been responsible for more than 2/3 of all catastrophic sports injuries to high school and college female athletes in the United States.  That sport:  cheerleading.  The finding recently was published in the 25th Annual Report of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The report sheds light on a danger that has largely gone unrecognized by many school districts, cheerleading coaches, parents and athletes alike. 

According to authors of this latest report, one major factor in the gradual rise of catastrophic injuries in the sport is a trend of increasing gymnastic stunts in cheerleading routines.  In many instances, these complex routines aren’t taught by competent gymnastic instructors, and exceed the training and experience levels of many cheerleaders.

The report includes the following list of sample guidelines to help prevent cheerleading injuries:

"1. Cheerleaders should have medical examinations before they are allowed to participate. Included would be a complete medical history.

2. Cheerleaders should be trained by a qualified coach with training in gymnastics and partner stunting. This person should also be trained in the proper methods for spotting and other safety factors.

3. Cheerleaders should be exposed to proper conditioning programs and trained in proper spotting techniques.

4. Cheerleaders should receive proper training before attempting gymnastic and partner type stunts and should not attempt stunts they are not capable of completing. A qualification system demonstrating mastery of stunts is recommended.

5. Coaches should supervise all practice sessions in a safe facility.

6. Mini-trampolines and flips or falls off of pyramids and shoulders should be prohibited.

7. Pyramids over two high should not be performed. Two high pyramids should not be performed without mats and other safety precautions.

8. If it is not possible to have a physician or certified athletic trainer at games and practice sessions, emergency procedures must be provided. The emergency procedure should be in writing and available to all staff and athletes.

9. There should be continued research concerning safety in cheerleading.

10.When a cheerleader has experienced or shown signs of head trauma (loss of consciousness, visual disturbances, headache, inability to walk correctly, obvious disorientation, memory loss) she/he should receive immediate medical attention and should not be allowed to practice or cheer without permission from the proper medical authorities.

11.Cheerleading coaches should have some type of safety certification. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors offers this certification."

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